A veteran FDNY member was killed and 20 people were injured early Tuesday morning when a home being evacuated due to a gas leak exploded.
Captain Michael Fahy, 44, a 17-year department member and a chief for the FDNY’s 19th Battalion, was killed when a portion of the building fell on his head when the building collapsed at around 7:30 a.m.
He and other first responders had just left the home and were standing just outside when the blast shook the residential neighborhood.
Mayor de Blasio announced Fahy’s death at a hastily scheduled press conference at nearby New York Presbyterian Hospital shortly after the blast.
“Tragedy has befallen a family, our fire department and our entire city,” de Blasio said.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said his just-deceased member was a rising star within the department.
“It’s a terrible loss for the Fahy family, it’s a loss for the fire department – we are a family and we feel it deeply today,” Nigro said. “We lost a hero today and we are all saddened.”
The explosion almost completely leveled the two-story private home at 300 W. 234th Street, just a block from Kingsbridge Road. Fahy, several other firefighters, NYPD members, Con Edison employees had just exited the building, in which a marijuana growing facility had just been discovered.
Several NYPD members were taken to North Bronx hospital with minor injuries. Some neighboring homes suffered minor damage and the explosion could be heard from miles away.
Marijuana plants could be seen in the rubble of the home, and fertilizer had been reportedly been seen by officers in the home before the blast took place.
Police were also investigating whether residents had tampered with the property’s gas lines prior to the incident.
A man believed to be the occupant of the apartment where the marijuana operation was located, 34-year-old Julio Salcedo, was apprehended for questioning by U.S. Marshals in New Jersey Tuesday evening.
No charges had been filed against him as of Wednesday morning.
The entire property was occupied solely by renters, according to police.
A report of a gas odor was called in to police by a passing resident less than an hour before the incident.
When asked whether the reported gas leak had caused the explosion or whether the drug operation had caused it, Nigro said the blast was still under investigation.
Nigro said he had worked with Fahy’s father, Thomas, a retired NYPD captain. He said the entire department was grieving along with the family, which included Fahy’s three young children.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neall said the block had been the focus of a recent investigation into area drug sales, and that the investigation would continue under the Arson and Explosion Squad and Bronx Detectives.
NYPD detectives canvased the nearby streets and interviewed homeowners after the blast.
The mayor ended the press conference reminding all residents not to hesitate to call 911 if they smell gas.